Bored of the same sights and sounds, and dreaming of getting away? Many of us are, but not all of us are ready to take the plunge and board a plane just yet. And not everywhere is ready to welcome you either. So, how do you get a change of scenery without going abroad? Here’s a few ideas for a New Year getaway with a difference!
Soak up Italian vibes in Wales
OK, so let’s start with an obvious one. If you’re looking for Italianate architecture and Mediterranean vibes (although not necessarily the weather), then Portmeirion in Wales is the place to head. This popular tourist village is something a little out of the ordinary. The colourful coastal village was created over a span of 50 years by architect Clough Williams-Ellis. And it really is a one-of-a-kind place.
Pick a warm, sunny day and take a wander around the village’s classically-designed buildings, linger in the piazza or take a seat on the hotel terrace. Stretch your legs with a walk through the exotic woodland trails and take a few snaps of the statues and towers dotted around the hillside. Or take a stroll along the sandy coastline, keeping your eye out for hidden coves and interesting flora.
Other surprising places to enjoy a taste of Italy in the UK
If you’ve already been there and done that, Portmeirion isn’t the only place where you can discover a piece of Italy in the UK. And if you’re looking for something unusual and off the beaten track, venture over to Orkney. At Lamb Holm you’ll find a pretty Italian Chapel. This fascinating building was built by Italian POWs during WWII and is even more ornate inside than it is outside.
Or if you prefer to stick to the mainland, why not head over Scotland’s west coast? At the small resort town of Largs you can enjoy Italian pastries or a sundae in the kitsch continental surroundings of Nardini’s much-loved ice-cream parlour.
Looking for something that’ll fill a whole day? Then why not take a trip to the Isle of Wight? Saunter around the grounds of what was Queen Victoria’s palatial holiday home. Looked after by English Heritage, the classically-styled Osborne House boasts manicured gardens and ‘palazzo’ architecture that makes you feel more like you’re in Naples than England.
Visit a subtropical garden in Dorset
Exotic plants and flowers often give us that feeling of being far away from home. So, one great place to seek out is the Subtropical Gardens at Abbotsbury in Dorset. Here you’ll find familiar and unusual plants and trees from all over the world. Wander amongst magnolias, rhododendrons and japonicas. Walk along paths lined with conebushes from South Africa and Chile, Euphorbia from Madeira and giant rhubarb from Brazil.
And with a plant centre that stocks unusual plants such as Canary Island Foxgloves and hardy banana plants, you can take home a lasting reminder of your time ‘away’. To get a taste of what to expect, take a virtual spring tour of the garden below.
Gardens are great places to getaway without needing to travel too far. So, if you fancy more suggestions for botanical escapes, the RHS has some good tips here. These include the subtropical walk at Cannington Walled Gardens in Somerset and East Ruston Old Vicarage on the Norfolk coast.
Trek in the Scottish Alps
What and where are the Scottish Alps, I hear you ask? Well, to be specific they’re called the Arrochar Alps and you’ll find them on the western side of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. This fabulously jagged group of mountains may not get the same attention as Ben Nevis but they’re popular with hikers. And with such a close proximity to Glasgow, these peaks famously helped to change climbing from an elitist hobby to something anyone could do.
Of course, you still need suitable attire, a map and the knowledge to read it! So, trekking in the Scottish Alps isn’t for everyone. If you fancy the excursion and are feeling fit but lack confidence, why not hire a mountain guide for a true expedition experience? There are a number of qualified guides and guiding companies that operate locally. They can even teach you some life-changing skills. If this is a tad too adventurous for you, There’s plenty of low level trails to explore with great views of the peaks.
Fancy that Alpine resort feeling? Well, Scotland’s highlands are perfect for this. Why not hit the slopes in Glencoe or the Cairngorms? Even if you don’t ski, you can soak up the Alpinesque surroundings in one of the mountaintop or hillside cafes. Or why not take a ride in the cable cars over the Nevis Range for an effortless jaunt?
Wander through the vineyards of southern England
The south of England has the perfect climate for producing wine and bubbly, so it’s no wonder there’s a growing number of award-winning vineyards now hugging the hills and valleys. Take a jaunt in the Surrey Hills or Cornwall’s Camel Valley for a taste of sunshine and wine. Squint and you may just think you’re in France. Make the most of trips to these areas by following the Camel Trail or Deepdene Trail.
Discover hidden rainforests
So here’s some news for you, the UK has rainforests. No really, it does! And although you may not happen across exotic tree frogs or lost tribes, you can discover a host of flora and fauna. Journey to Ausewell Wood or Fingle Woods in Devon; Crinan Wood in Scotland or Coed Felenrhyd & Llennyrch woodland in Wales.
These woods are classed as temperate or Celtic rainforest and here you can enjoy some of our most biodiverse habitats. As well as native tree species, you’ll find lichens, mosses and fungi galore. These aren’t the only rainforests in the UK, and a project is currently attempting to map these important places. So, get your coat and boots, and take a trip through the trees this year.
Journey through Somerset’s epic gorge
Cheddar Gorge is actually a pretty famous spot. But it’s certainly worth mentioning if you miss the awe-inspiring canyons of Canada and USA. OK, it’s never going to be on quite the same scale as some of the world’s most famous rocky places, but it’s pretty cool. And it can give some of Greece and France’s gorges a run for their money. Look up as you wind your way through this wonderful landscape and you may be surprised at just how scenic and rocky it is.
Of course, the UK has a wealth of pretty gorges. Some of which are perfect for walking holidays. You’ll find some fab gorge-themed walks across the country. We’ve done some scenic walks ourselves in Teesdale, Nidderdale and Eskdale.
Walk on white sand beaches
Away from the bright lights and deep-fried delights of our seaside resorts there’s a much more serene side to the UK’s coast. One with turquoise-tinted waters and fine white sands. And although there may be no loungers or waiters to hand, but there’s almost certainly a relaxing spot with excellent views to be had along some of Scotland’s remote and peaceful shores.
Head over to the Hebridean islands of Harris, Barra or Mull and you’ll find peaceful beaches huddled along the shores. These are places that you’ll barely believe are in the UK but you’re more likely to share your space with the wildlife than hordes of sunburnt tourists. And if you’re in the highlands, don’t miss the Wester Ross coast either. A mix of golden and white sands can be easily found here. So, no need to jump on a plane for a New Year getaway just yet.
As always, do check government guidance and visitor information before you make any plans. And always be kind and considerate to staff and local residents when you travel around.